Many rheumatics benefit from sun, warmth and a combination of individual treatment by a physiotherapist and physical training in groups, whereby mobility is improved and pain decreases. Swedes have consequently looked for treatment abroad. At the south of Tenerife in the Canary Islands is the Swedish rehabilitation centre Vintersol. People with a range of chronic diseases can be treated during a period of four weeks, financed by public funds. The number of participants is unfortunately very restricted.
The Östergötland area has a population of somewhat over 400 000, of which 3000 are members of the local branch of the Rheumatism organisation. A total of around 50 persons are annually granted funding for treatment abroad, of which about 22 are adult rheumatics and six juvenile rheumatics. There is a wide disparity between supply and demand. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis are those usually given climate-care. Many diagnoses are consequently not included, but age and general health can also be decisive in the selection process.
The Rheumatism organisation in the region of Oestergötland has together with the County Council (Landstinget) in charge of health care in the region carried out a project where 37 rheumatics participated in a 14 -day rehabilitation programme at Marysol in Tenerife, when health professionals from Vintersol were available. The County Council subsidised the project with 115 00 swedish crowns (c. 1 300 Euro), a sum which also enabled a specialised rheumatology nurse to travel with the group of patients. The National Health Service also decided that the “season ticket system”, where a ceiling for medical care is reached after a total annual cost of 1800 swedish crowns, should apply. The participants all had letters of referral from their doctors.
The purpose has been to determine whether two weeks in a warm climate combined with treatment gives a good and prolonged effect. The results have also been compared regarding different diagnoses. The project has aimed to further cooperation by encouraging the County Council to annually subsidise travel for a number of rheumatics who for various diagnostical, economical, health or other reasons are not allowed or do not have the possibility of climate-care.
Good results were noted even after 14 days. All the participants had increased mobility, less pain and reduced need of analgesics. The social aspect was seen to be particularly important for the single or lonely rheumatics. Financial benefit was noted in the comparison of four weeks at Vintersol at a cost of 40 000 Swedish crowns and two weeks at Mar y sol for 10 000 Swedish crowns. The relatively low cost was ensured by local volunteer-work, and the participants paid both privately and with help from various funds.
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